A lot of companies around the world are driving towards the vision of a world where cars would be driver-less. But a very different corollary to this story is already playing out in California. The Parkmerced neighborhood of San Francisco, which was developed in the early 1940s, is being revived by Maximus Real Estate Partners with a long-term vision of changing the way how people live and commute in the suburbs.
One big part of the concept is car-free living, as part of which new residents who participate in the programme get $100 as monthly transportation credit per apartment to use with Uber and Clipper — the latter lets people pay for public transport like BART, Muni and Caltrain as well as parking in the city. Plus, any resident in the locality can catch an UberPool ride to nearby public stations for a flat rate of $5.
To launch a car-free living programme at Parkmerced, Uber had last year entered into a partnership with Parkmerced, a real estate development company in San Francisco. Under the tie-up, both the companies will undertake research regarding programme participants’ driving habits before and during their participation, to add important real-world data about driving behavior, cost savings, use of public transportation, and associated environmental benefits. Samir S Sashikant, vice-president brand operations at Maximus, says the idea is to pursue car-free living as a business model. And there has been some impact on the ground. “We have seen that though occupancy has been going up, the sale of parking slots has remained flat,” explained Sashikant. Incidentally, since the programme is not limited to those who don’t own cars and the incentive will be given out even if the person does not stop using personal modes of transportation. “The $100 is good enough for them to use a public transport at least a few times each month and that is good enough for now,” adds Sashikant.
“Parkmerced was built for the large American car and you can see that in the space between the buildings,” explains Dr Curt Alexander of Maximus. “Our vision is different. When we finish developing this project 20 years from now, it will be a carbon neutral community. It won’t be a community built around the idea of moving around in a car, but a community built for those who don’t use a car,” he adds.
According to FAQs posted on the Parkmercer website, every new leaseholder is eligible to participate in the programme and they must have an Uber account, in which Uber promo code(s) and/or Clipper credit will be automatically reloaded each month. The Uber allocation is only good for one month. If the entire allotment isn’t utilised during that monthly timeframe, it will be forfeited and participants will receive new promo code(s) for the following month. Clipper card allotments will roll over if not completely utilised within the monthly timeframe.
The $100 allocation will be evenly distributed between all roommates. Once participants enter into the Car-Free Living Portal, they can transfer any amount of their portion on to another roommate. Participants’ Uber allotment will be made in $10 increments and will be good for up to $5 per ride. For example, if one’s UberPool trip costs $8.50, you’ll only pay $3.50 for that trip. Interestingly, companies like Uber and Maximus strongly believe that the new generations don’t have that much of a fascination with owning a car as maybe their parents. They just want to get from one point to the other as easily as possible. “This property sits in between Silicon Valley and the San Francisco and a lot of temporary workers no longer work just in the Valley, they also work in the city” Dr Alexander adds on how commuting is changing in the Bay Area. He says that while the concept reflects the values of his company it also benefits the residents directly.
For a company like Uber, it perfectly gels with its larger, long-term, vision for a driverless world. It believes that all autonomous cars shared at scale would mean the world can rid itself of 90 per cent of the cars we have now, along with the economic and environmental challenges that come with it. Projects like Parkmerced might just help drive at least some parts of the world along that dramatic path.
* Who is eligible?
Every new leaseholder
* What is required?
An Uber account
* How will people get subsidy/credit?
Uber promo code(s) and/or Clipper credit will be automatically reloaded each month in the Uber account
* Credit timeframe?
The Uber allocation is only good for one month. If the entire allotment isn’t utilised during that monthly timeframe, it will be forfeited and participants will receive new promo code(s) for the following month. Clipper card allotments will roll over if not completely utilised within the monthly timeframe